A Baltimore County grandmother who has dedicated 27 years of her life to serving children with significant emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges is one of three exemplary area servants Catholic Charities will recognize the week of November 8-12.

Geri Olsen will receive the Distinguished Service Award for her decades of volunteer services to the residents and staff of St. Vincent’s Villa. The program in Timonium provides comprehensive residential treatment for children throughout the state of Maryland, ages 5-14, whose behavioral and emotional needs have not responded to community-based interventions and services.

“It has truly been the fulfillment of my life’s purpose,” said Olsen. “During my senior year of high school they asked, ‘If you had all the money in the world, who would you give it to?’ My instant response was, ‘I would use the money to make every child’s Christmas wish come true.'”

A force of action

“Geri has been an outstanding supporter for children at St. Vincent’s Villa,” said Sunnye Fredia, St. Vincent’s Villa community outreach coordinator. “She is the core supporter, organizer, and motivator for St. Vincent’s signature Christmas Campaign, Season of Wonder, which is now part of Catholic Charities’ Comfort and Joy December community gift campaign. She works tirelessly throughout the year to bring potential donors together to provide for children, staff, and families. Geri truly is a force that is determined and deep-rooted in action – not merely words.”

“Nothing warms my heart more than seeing the generations of my family join me in spreading love and kindness to the staff and children at St. Vincent’s Villa,” Olsen said. “This holiday season, let’s all work together to make Christmas wishes for every child at St. Vincent’s Villa come true.”

Olsen is the recipient of several prestigious awards including The Unsung Hero Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the 2001 Distinguished Service Award from Catholic Charities. This award is given to an individual or group who exemplifies and significantly supports compassionate caregiving and service through personal commitment to Catholic Charities’ work.

“It’s nice to be nice,” said Olsen.